Pollen concentration breaks 1,500 spores per cubic meter, physicians talk remedies

Barak Bullock

Waves of pollen blanketing Austin are making life tough for those with seasonal allergies, but students and physicians have tips for avoiding the sniffles and sneezes.

The pollen count broke 1,500 grains per cubic meter Monday in Austin. Those with seasonal allergies suffer congestion, sneezy and running noses.

To combat pollen allergies, University Health Services’ Dr. Jim Tai recommends routinely cleaning your house to keep out the pollen.

“Vacuuming your house regularly, making sure you wipe the counters and keeping the house as dust free as possible [are all good practices],” Tai said.

Though allergy sufferers may be convinced this spring is the worst in years, the answer is more complex according to allergist Sheila Amar, who works at the Allergy & Asthma Center of Georgetown

Amar is one of two physicians who oversee the Georgetown center, which is the only pollen counting station certified by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology in the Austin, Georgetown and Round Rock area. 

“I would say [the pollen concentration] was milder than 2011, but it is probably equivalent or worse than last year,” Amar said.

Amar said a decline of mountain cedar pollen and an unusual rise in tree pollen is contributing to this year’s counts.

“One of the biggest pollinating plants in central Texas is mountain cedar … but this year the cedar counts are extremely low,” Amar said. “The trees on the other hand, like oak and ash and all the other trees, typically pollinate in March, but this year they started quite early — they started mid-February — and I think it’s probably because we didn’t have a frost this year.”

Amar recommended wearing a mask, changing clothes often and showering at night to avoid symptoms of allergies. 

Undergraduate studies sophomore Lauren Poluga said the pollen is so bad she takes allergy medication just to leave the house.

“If I haven’t taken three Claritin by the time I walk out the door I can’t breathe through my nose,” Poluga said. “I’ve been taking Claritin on an hourly basis and some Sudafed.” 

Poluga also said keeping pollen out of the home is the best way to avoid the symptoms.

“If your clothes are full of pollen, take them off immediately and put them in your laundry or hamper,” Poluga said. “Don’t walk around your house or lay on the couch or you’ll get it everywhere.”